When Michael Dourson, Trump’s nominee to head EPA’s chemical safety office, was grilled by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee earlier this month, I sat in the hearing room thinking about what, exactly, was at stake. Next to me were families who had traveled to DC from Indiana because their groundwater is contaminated with TCE, an industrial solvent linked to cancer. One of those families has a child in treatment for cancer. Another lost their child to cancer.
Last year, with your help, Congress—with rare bipartisan spirit—passed a law to better regulate toxic chemicals. That law is meant to protect children from chemical exposures that may cause cancer. It should go without saying—but not these days: The bill must be implemented by someone who wants to protect children’s health.
Dourson has built his career as a consultant for chemical companies. Paid by the chemical industry, he has dangerously downplayed the health risks of TCE, the carcinogen that contaminated groundwater in Indiana and many other states; 1,4-dioxane, established by scientists and medical researchers to be a likely carcinogen; flame retardants; and PFOA, a stain resistant chemical made by DuPont that harms the developing brains of babies and children.
PFOA has contaminated water supplies in New York, Ohio, and West Virginia. In West Virginia, Dourson helped the state environmental protection department set a safety level for PFOA that was 150 times higher than the maximum level DuPont’s own scientists had set. This standard, more than 2,000 times less stringent than the one the EPA now recommends, stayed in place for four years, and determined which families DuPont was required to supply with clean water.
For decades, if you were a big company facing health challenges from EPA, you knew just what to do: Ask Dourson for a review of your toxic product. What you would get in return: A recommendation that the government weaken health standards for that chemical.
In the Senate hearing room, I was shocked at Dourson’s reluctance to acknowledge the health harms of a range toxins, from petcoke to PFOA. He also boldly refused to recuse himself from deliberations about the very chemicals he has been paid to champion. Watching the emotional reaction of those families next to me was physically painful.
Let’s get one thing straight. When moms talk about protecting children from chemical exposures, we are talking about cancer, birth defects, and other devastating issues.
Dourson has built a career supporting industry polluters. He has worked for Dow Chemical, Koch Industries, DuPont, and Chevron to whitewash the impact of chemicals linked to a range of health problems.
Dourson even took money from Big Tobacco to downplay the health effects of breathing second hand cigarette smoke.
This is the wrong guy for the job.